If perhaps you haven’t previously, probably sometime in your life you will want to hire an attorney at law. Thanks to my interview with Tampa Attorney Christina Mesa, here’s a listing of responses to popular as well as important questions.
1. QUESTION: Do I have to hire an attorney in the county where the case occurs?
ANSWER: No. Many lawyers or attorneys practice in other jurisdictions and other states, depending on their licensure for the latter. Having experience in the county in which the matter will be litigated is crucial as that attorney will have a comfort level with the county courthouse personnel, lawyers (likely opposing counsel) and judges. One matter in retaining a lawyer outside the area wherein the matter occurs is cost of journey time. Some lawyers don’t charge for travel, others give you a reduced rate or preserve a billable rate for all work conducted. Talk about that question with each lawyer consulted.
2. QUESTION: How will I be certain my attorney is handling my case?
ANSWER: Every good attorney monitors his time (fees) and expenditures (costs). Your retainer contract should include a statement of how the lawyer bills his clients – once a month, quarterly, etc. You may also track your case in some jurisidictions that provide on-line access to case dockets. If the county has that set up, you’re wise to periodically review the docket and see what activities have taken place by your lawyer and the other party/counsel. It’s also advisable to feel at ease getting in touch with your lawyer at intervals to ascertain the status of the issue, understanding you’ll likely be charged for these communications.
3. QUESTION: Just how do I pick an attorney?
ANSWER: Legal topics are as vast as those in other sectors, such as medicine, construction, finance, etc. and are often just as complicated. To safeguard your rights and remedies, the best practice would be to study your area of need and research what law firms are available to work with you. A recommendation from someone you know and admire can bring a personal element to the decision to hire an law firm but should not be the exclusive reason counsel is chosen. Look into the lawyer’s background of education, experience and area(s) of practice. Asking basic questions should be urged in this process. Self-help could be empowering but may also limit or negate your recovery. Hiring a legal professional should be contemplated with the same level of thought and consideration as that directed at the choice of a medical professional, accountant, financial expert or therapist.
4. QUESTION: How do I know if I will need a legal professional?
ANSWER: If you have already been served with a Summons and related documents (Complaint, Petition, Motion), you really should endeavor to look for legal guidance now. Papers filed in court that begin a lawsuit call for responses that involve particular deadlines; missing those deadlines could compromise your defense, restrict or avoid your recovery. Some concerns by statute involve a “pre-suit” period that allow you to take into account the legal issues and probable resolution before a suit is filed. Similarly, seeking a lawyer as quickly as possible is advised.
5. QUESTION: What is mediation?
ANSWER: Mediation is a course of action whereby the parties to the matter present at an agreed place with their counsel (if retained) and a selected mediator to try and resolve all or some of the issues involved. Mediators should be unrelated to all parties and the litigation at issue, are to stay impartial between the parties and their lawyer, and maintain the confidential nature of the conference to recommend settlement and resolution. Usually the parties share the cost of the mediation equally but other arrangements can be made if all parties are in agreement in advance of the conference. Mediation is generally required in every case filed in court and prior to a trial is held.
6. QUESTION: What type of legal professional do I need?
ANSWER: Again, like other sectors, attorneys may specialise in a certain or more than one area. Similarly, law offices may specialize, provide general legal needs or offer you services in several precise areas of law. Trial attorneys handle cases involving lawsuits; family law attorneys handle divorce cases, child custody/visitation, child support, alimony and associated matters; general practitioners handle almost all matters. Some areas of law are very specialized, like bankruptcy or taxation; some are delineated by statute, such as worker’s compensation. Any attorney should be able to talk about your specific issue, determine if he or she is qualified to handle such matters or inform you of the necessity to seek advice from another in a specialised area.
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